UN asks Australian govt to suspend Adani’s project in the country

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: January 25, 2019

A UN committee raised concerns that the Queensland coal project may violate Indigenous rights under an international convention against racial discrimination if it goes ahead, giving Australia until April to formally respond.

Image Courtesy: ABC News

Queensland: ABC News Australia recently reported that the United Nations has asked the Australian Government to consider suspending the Adani project in Queensland until it gains the support of all traditional owners who are fighting the miner in court.
A UN committee raised concerns that the Queensland coal project may violate Indigenous rights under an international convention against racial discrimination if it goes ahead, giving Australia until April to formally respond.
Meanwhile, a public interest legal fund backed by former corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald has stepped in with financial backing for a federal court challenge to Adani by its opponents within the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last month wrote to Australia's UN ambassador to raise concerns that consultation on Adani's Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) "might not have been conducted in good faith".
These allegations "notably" included that members of the W&J native title claim group were excluded, and the committee was concerned that the project "does not enjoy free, prior and informed consent of all (W&J) representatives".
UN committee chair Noureddine Amir in a letter told Australia's UN ambassador Sally Mansfield the committee was concerned ILUAs could lead to the "extinction of Indigenous peoples' land titles" in Australia.
"Accordingly, the committee is concerned that, if the above allegations are corroborated, the realisation of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project would infringe the rights of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, rights that are protected under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination," Mr Amir said.
The committee gave Australia until April 8 to outline steps taken to ensure proper consent "in accordance with Indigenous peoples' own decision-making mechanisms". It asked Australia to "consider suspending" the Adani project until consent was given by "all Indigenous peoples, including the Wangan and Jagalingou family council". It invited Australia to seek expert advice from the UN experts on Indigenous rights and to "facilitate dialogue" between the W&J and Adani.
Martin Wagner, a managing attorney with US-based legal outfit Earth Justice, who has advocated for the W&J to the UN, said writing to Australia was "not a step the committee takes lightly".
Mr Wagner said both Australia and Adani risked their reputations by "moving forward with a project that international human rights institutions are calling out for concern about human rights violations".
Federal Resources Minister Matt  Canavan said the question of Adani's consent from traditional owners had been tested in Australian courts.
"The UN should respect the Australian legal system and its processes, and this particular committee should not try to direct our actions in matters which it clearly does not understand," he said.
"The Federal Court found that none of the grounds of the challenge by the mine opponents had any merit — the UN committee's letter does not even mention these facts."
Grata Fund executive director Isabelle Reinecke said the outfit had approached the W&J and agreed to pay the bond.
"People shouldn't have to choose between fighting for the rights of their community and bankruptcy," said Ms Reinecke, who is a former legal director at activist group GetUp.
"In this case, it is a legitimate legal question that needs to be resolved by the court which goes to the heart of the Native Title process in Australia and to the heart of corporate and government accountability to the law in Australia.
Adani is seeking to bankrupt one of the five Wangan and Jagalingou challengers, Adrian Burragubba, over $600,000 in unpaid cost orders from previous challenges.
The spokeswoman claimed Mr Burragubba had been "urged on by environmental groups", including the "foreign-backed Sunrise Project that recently made a $495,000 donation to Get Up".
She said it would donate any funds from Mr Burragubba to charity. Adani donated almost $27,000 to the Liberal National Party in Queensland last November. Mr Burragubba claimed Adani was relying on a "bogus agreement.”
“Their rent-a-crowd ILUA is not supported by the legitimate W&J Traditional Owners from the Carmichael Belyando native title claim area,” Mr Burragubba said.
“Adani will not stop us by trying to silence our voice with their awful bankruptcy tactic, which is intended to intimidate us,” he said.
This report is based on an article by ABC News.